- By Suzanne Halliburton American-Statesman Staff
Jimbo Fisher was having none of this moral victory talk on Monday.
Two days removed from a near upset over No. 2 Clemson, the scoreboard still said that Texas A&M lost the game, 28-26.
“Not happy,” said Fisher, the Aggies’ coach. “Not very happy at all. … There were missed opportunities in that game.”
That’s true. A&M couldn’t convert on a two-point conversion that would’ve tied the game at 28-28 with 46 seconds to play. The Aggies missed a short field goal in the first quarter. And there was the disputed fourth-quarter fumble committed by A&M receiver Quartney Davis and whether he lost the ball out of bounds at the Clemson 1 or if it rolled through the end zone for a touchback. The Tigers were given the ball at the 20.
Fisher has won many titles in his coaching career, so near wins and moral victories don’t register.
But to a championship-starved team and fan base, the game against Clemson offered a taste of what might be out there for the Aggies.
They’ll reconvene Saturday at Kyle Field for a non-conference game against Louisiana-Monroe (2-0). Then the schedule swings mightily the opposite way when the Aggies travel to top-ranked Alabama on Sept. 22 for the start of SEC play.
“To play like that, it gave us a good boost of confidence … swagger,” said linebacker Tyrel Dodson, who basically predicted last week that his team would upset Clemson. “Knowing all the hard work paid off. “
After their game against the Tigers, the Aggies were on the cusp of cracking the top 25. Although it was a loss, A&M impressed enough voters to rank 26th in the coaches poll. The Aggies were five points behind Arizona State (92-87). They were 27th in the Associated Press poll, a slot behind Utah.
Life is getting better in College Station as the Aggies are receiving more affirmative national attention. It remains to be seen whether that will continue throughout the season. A&M never had a problem with early season play in the six-year Kevin Sumlin era. Rather, Fisher was hired to replace Sumlin because of issues that unfolded from mid-October to season’s end.
The Clemson contest was the second-highest rated prime-time game broadcast on ESPN in two years. And the ratings for ESPN’s College Football GameDay were up 17 percent from season two in 2017 for a telecast before Oklahoma-Ohio State.
On Monday, CBS announced that it had picked up A&M-Alabama for its popular national slot at 2:30 p.m.
Although the Aggies have the Crimson Tide on their minds, they can’t overlook Louisiana-Monroe. A year ago in College Station, the Warhawks led 21-14 at halftime. A&M finished the game on a 31-0 run for the 45-21 victory.
“Coach says to prepare every week, it doesn’t matter who you’re playing,” said quarterback Kellen Mond, who threw for a career-best 420 yards against Clemson.
“There’s no such thing as a letdown,” said receiver Kendrick Rogers, who is coming off a seven-catch, 120-yard performance against Clemson.
A&M has only played a tiny slice of its season. But the two-game trend is a good one.
The offense already has posted a 500-yard rushing game (Northwestern State) and hit 400 in passing (Clemson). Before this September, A&M had never put up those sort of balanced numbers in the same decade.
Fisher said it’s imperative they keep pushing the momentum, with no letdown this Saturday.
What’s the focus?
“There’s a game,” Fisher said, “and there’s a scoreboard.”